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A man with mental health challenges looks anxious.

Mental health issues can affect every aspect of life, including the ability to work. Serious mental health conditions can make a person incapable of any employment.

If you have a mental health condition that prevents you from working, you may qualify for Canada Pension Plan (“CPP”) Disability Benefits. CPP disability claim applications are notoriously complex to navigate and can be even more challenging for those suffering from prolonged psychological illness.

The goal of this article is to provide general information about the CPP disability claim process for mental health conditions. If you have specific questions about your claim application or the denial of your CPP disability claim, we welcome you to reach out for legal advice and guidance.

You can get CPP disability for mental health conditions

Canada Pension Plan Disability Benefits are a monthly payment you can get if you:

  • are under 65

  • have made enough contributions into the CPP

  • have a mental or physical disability that regularly stops you from doing any type of substantially gainful work

  • have a disability that is long-term and of indefinite duration or is likely to result in death.

So, you may qualify for CPP disability benefits if your mental illness is severe and prolonged and prevents you from working in any occupation.

Eligible psychological conditions for CPP disability

Prolonged psychological impairments that may make you eligible for CPP disability benefits include:

  • Anxiety

  • Depression

  • Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (“PTSD”)

  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (“OCD”)

  • Cognitive disorder

  • Panic Disorder

  • Phobia (e.g., agoraphobia)

  • Insomnia

  • Bipolar Disorder

  • Borderline Personality Disorder

  • Dementia

Common challenges when claiming CPP disability for mental health conditions

Many legitimate CPP disability claims are denied due to errors in the application, missed deadlines, or lack of medical evidence to support the claim. For those struggling with mental illness, the difficulties are often multiplied many times over.

There are several common challenges that people with mental illness experience when navigating the CPP disability claim application process. One major difficulty is that mental health conditions are “invisible disabilities,” not readily observable or measurable with a blood test or X-ray, for example. The barriers and impairments caused by mental illness are internal but no less real and no less debilitating. The difficulty is proof. To get CPP disability benefits, you must provide proof to Service Canada that your condition is both severe and prolonged, and that it prevents you from working in any occupation.

Your application will be denied if you do not provide sufficient evidence to support your disability. Necessary evidence typically includes medical reports from your attending health care practitioners, letters from your former employer, and letters or statements from your friends and family on the day-to-day impact of your mental disability.

Another significant difficulty is that mental health conditions can leave a person incapable of applying for CPP disability benefits. It is important to make a timely application and to meet deadlines throughout the CPP disability claims process. Unfortunately, severe mental illness can rob you of your capacity to function at the level you need to make a successful CPP disability claim. Don’t despair—there are options if you have delayed bringing your application or you have missed deadlines.

If you weren’t able to apply for CPP disability benefits because you were incapacitated by your mental disability, you have one year after you regain capacity to contact Service Canada to apply using the incapacity provision. The incapacity provision applies if you were previously mentally incapable of forming or expressing the intent to apply for CPP disability benefits.

It allows Service Canada to deem your application to have been received at an earlier date.

You may be entitled to retroactive benefit payments if you were previously incapable of forming or expressing an intention to make a CPP disability benefits application. In a recent case, Blue v. Canada (Attorney General), 2021 FCA 211, the Federal Court of Appeal found that a woman suffering from debilitating mental illness was entitled to retroactive CPP disability benefits from April 2004 until April 2016. Her May 2016 application was initially approved with payments starting as of June 2015. She appealed, and the Court determined that because of her psychological impairments, she had lacked the capacity to form or express the intent to apply for a disability pension during the period from April 2004 to April 2016. Consequently, her application for disability benefits was deemed to have been made as of April 2004, with payments commencing from that date.

CPP disability claim guidance for mentally ill people in Calgary, Alberta, and Saskatchewan

It is highly recommended that you seek legal representation to assist you with the CPP disability claim application process—or the appeals process if your claim has been denied.

Ludwar Law Firm has over 25 years of experience representing clients with claims for CPP disability for mental health conditions. Our clients appreciate that we take the time to explain their options, what is required to make a CPP disability claim, and what to expect during the claims process.

Our legal expertise has helped win even difficult CPP disability claims for mental health conditions. The team at our Calgary law firm will help you determine which benefits you are eligible to claim and guide you throughout the application process.

If you have already made a CPP disability claim application and been denied benefits, we can help you find out why. You can appeal the denial within 90 days of being denied. Our law firm in Calgary can help you through the appeal process so you get the benefits your deserve.

We welcome you to contact us today to schedule your free consultation.


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